NGOs voice their views at Seattle
Seattle will be remembered for the protests, activism and voices of hundreds of NGOs and social movements. Their presence was very much felt in the dramatic street demonstrations that captured the imagination of the world; in the many workshops, 'Teach-Ins' and strategy sessions they organised in parallel to the official Conference; and in the WTO Conference itself where they talked to delegates and held impromptu press conferences. Below, we reproduce extracts of statements and other documents issued by some of the NGOs. They provide a flavour of the views voiced by civil society at Seattle.
Civil society's Declaration of Seattle
No New Round, instead Turnaround!
'No to a new Round with new issues. Instead Turnaround the WTO.' That was the central message of a joint statement by over 2,000 NGOs and social movements. This statement was the rallying point in the worldwide campaign by citizen groups. It was also endorsed by over 2,000 participants of the globalisation Teach-In (organised by the International Forum on Globalisation) and presented at the WTO-organised Trade Symposium with NGOs in Seattle the day before the WTO Ministerial Conference began.
THE governments of the world are meeting in Seattle for the World Trade Organisation's Third Ministerial Conference. We, the undersigned members of international civil society, oppose any effort to expand the powers of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) through a new comprehensive round of trade liberalisation. Instead, governments should review and rectify the deficiencies of the system and the WTO regime itself.
The Uruguay Round Agreements and the establishment of the WTO were proclaimed as a means of enhancing the creation of global wealth and prosperity and promoting the well-being of all people in all member states. In reality, however, in the past five years the WTO has contributed to the concentration of wealth in the hands of the rich few; increasing poverty for the majority of the world's population; and unsustainable patterns of production and consumption.
The Uruguay Round Agreements have functioned principally to prise open markets for the benefit of transnational corporations at the expense of national economies; workers, farmers and other people; and the environment. In addition, the WTO system, rules and procedures are undemocratic, untransparent and non-accountable and have operated to marginalise the majority of the world's people.
All this has taken place in the context of increasing global economic instability, the collapse of national economies, increasing inequity both between and within nations and increasing environmental and social degradation, as a result of the acceleration of the process of globalisation.
The governments which dominate the WTO and the transnational corporations which have benefited from the WTO system have refused to recognise and address these problems. Instead, they are pushing for further liberalisation through the introduction of new issues for adoption in the WTO. This will lead to the exacerbation of the crisis associated with the process of globalisation and the WTO.
We oppose any further liberalisation negotiations, especially those which will bring new areas under the WTO regime, such as investment, competition policy and government procurement. We commit ourselves to campaign to reject any such proposals. We also oppose the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) Agreement.
We call for a moratorium on any new issues or further negotiations that expand the scope and power of the WTO.
During this moratorium there should be a comprehensive and in-depth review and assessment of the existing agreements. Effective steps should then be taken to change the agreements. Such a review should address the WTO's impact on marginalised communities, development, democracy, environment, health, human rights, labour rights and the rights of women and children. The review must be conducted with civil society's full participation.
The failure of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development's Multilateral Agreement on Investment (MAI) demonstrates broad public opposition to the deregulation of the global economy, the increasing dominance of transnational corporations and escalating resource use and environmental degradation.
A review of the system will provide an opportunity for society to change course and develop an alternative, humane and sustainable international system of trade and investment relations.
On 26-27 November, on the eve of the WTO Ministerial Conference, the International Forum on Globalisation (IFG) organised a Teach-In on Economic Globalisation attended by over 2,000 people. It set the mood for NGOs for the week to come. The IFG produced many books on the WTO. One of them, Invisible Government, gives an overview of the key issues of concern arising from the WTO's rules and operations. Excerpts from the Conclusion are reproduced below.
Debi Barker & Jerry Mander
No New Round, Turn Around
The WTO has gained unprecedented powers, powers that threaten the basic freedoms of democratic societies and the rights of communities to control their environments, health, cultural, and social conditions. It has impacted many of the internal political processes of member nations at every level of government.
The WTO intrudes into the affairs of national governments for the clear purpose of transferring many real powers of governance away from the control of countries and their citizens to global corporations and the bureaucracies that serve them. The ultimate goal is to permanently codify trade issues and corporate profits making them the primary standards of a new form of global governance.
The WTO has brought under its power many new aspects of agriculture and investment, as well as intellectual property rights, thus giving global corporations greater control of seeds, food, farming, and biodiversity. Now, global corporations are pushing hard to expand the WTO mandate even further via the proposed new Millennium Round. In addition to the important and frightening power grabs in food and public health standards, telecommunications, forestry, and other areas that have already been discussed, new drives are being made to extend WTO oversight in the areas of competition (further favouring large global corporations over smaller, local businesses); government procurement (to open up formerly sacred areas such as education, healthcare, and public broadcasting to foreign corporations); and more control of investment (including the re-emergence of MAI (Multilateral Agreement on Investment)/MIA (Multilateral Investment Agreement) agreements).
Southern countries are particularly concerned because they are just beginning to deal with the ways in which the formation of the WTO has led to the loss of livelihood for millions of small farmers and business people, the harmful transformation of traditional ways of life, the destruction of native biodiversity, and the pervasive damage to local economic systems that have been invaded by dominant corporate and financial enterprises. They strongly argue that this is the wrong time to burst into yet another round in which the largest and wealthiest countries, with their huge entourages of industry-funded lobbyists, plan to bring a vast number of changes to the table.
Should the WTO be scrapped? Replaced by some new institution? Is it salvageable at all? These questions are being vigorously discussed outside the circle of WTO ministers by thousands of NGOs all over the world, all of whom find the WTO seriously flawed.
At one end of the spectrum, some still argue for reforming the WTO by including, for example, labour and environmental standards and making its proceedings more transparent and democratic. Another group wants to reframe the WTO agenda to help close the economic and power gaps between North and South. They believe that the strong economy of the North is built upon the colonialist policies of the past, and that WTO rules controlling the exploitation of resources are merely extensions of old policies that favour the North. Still others say that the main points now are to prevent further expansion of the WTO into new terrain and to remove certain areas from its control , such as agriculture, intellectual property rights, water, and all elements of the commons, including the genetic structures of life.
Then there is a large, ever-growing group that feels the WTO, like the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, cannot be reformed; that it is inherently destructive to the environment, democratic social processes, and equity. Far better, this line of thinking holds, would be to advocate for economic systems that move real powers and control away from the global centre and back to local institutions where there is a greater chance for democratic representation and environmental, social, and cultural sustainability.
Advocates of globalisation continue to argue that there is no viable alternative, and that it is Utopian to oppose this inevitable process. But what is truly Utopian is to say that a development model that defies nature's limits, marginalises millions of people, and destroys economic and social equity can possibly survive for very long.
Debi Barker is deputy director and Jerry Mander is acting director of the International Forum on Globalisation.
A Call for Change
NGO Statement on the collapse of the WTO Ministerial
WTO is in crisis. The process of trade negotiations is fundamentally flawed
and cannot be the basis for global policy-making for the new millennium.
As the events of the last few days have illustrated, the WTO is:
These examples illustrate a systemic flaw. The ascendency of a narrow set of business interests over all other interests of society must be reversed. As the protesters world-wide have made clear, the WTO negotiators must not return to Geneva to continue business as usual behind closed doors. Rather, we must all engage in a broader search for a democratic, humane, and sustainable international system.
Suspended in Seattle: Why the WTO talks are a mess
The following is based on two press releases issued by the World Development Movement in Seattle on 3 December 1999.
An opportunity for change
EVENTUALLY, governments halted trade talks in Seattle. Amongst the many reasons were:
* The WTO and the USA (who hosted and chaired the talks) mismanaged the talks and alienated most of the delegates.
* The bullying and arm-twisting tactics, particularly used by the USA, led to an angry response from developing countries who were systematically marginalised.
* The basic strategy of the EU was flawed - there was no way that developing countries have the capacity to embark on a comprehensive round of trade negotiations, particularly those that are primarily of interest to EU multinational companies.
* The shadow of protesters outside, the glare of media scrutiny and lobbying by NGOs brought a glimmer of openness to trade negotiations and exposed the deep flaws in the way governments have traditionally negotiated trade deals.
We need to ensure that the right lessons are learned from Seattle. When the Multilateral Agreement on Investment (MAI) failed it was seen as a failure to sell the agreement. But the fatal flaws were in the objectives of the agreement itself. The same is true of trade. It is time to make trade rules fairer and develop international rules that are enforceable on multinational companies.
WTO negotiations: They're a mess
WTO negotiations have been an excuse for arm-twisting and bullying. The US and the EU must stop trying to bounce developing countries into agreements that they bitterly oppose and are clearly not in their interests.
There was strong criticism of the US and the WTO in statements issued by the Africa group and the Latin America/Caribbean group of countries. At a seminar organised by WDM and others, Sir Shridath Ramphal (Caribbean negotiator) characterised the negotiations as 'neo-colonialist'. He warned against any attempt to blame developing countries if they exercised their right not to sign a bad deal today. 'Most participants will leave with a feeling of exclusion. If it fails, the blame must lie with the WTO and the USA.'
Even the British Secretary of State, Stephen Byers, joined in and said, 'It's a mess.' EU Trade Commissioner, Pascal Lamy, called them 'medieval'. However, the EU has not been beyond arm-twisting of its own, especially in their attempts to get agreements on the 'singapore' issues of investment, competition and government procurement.
Corporate lobbies have been pushing hard for an investment agreement in the wake of the failed MAI. The EU has been selling investment by saying it is not an MAI Mark II, but fails to point out that the objectives are almost identical - investment liberalisation and investor protection. Background papers from the EU and UK confirm that they still want provisions such as pre-establishment rights for foreign multinationals, but they are prepared to get them through successive negotiations. The proposals from developing countries for the inclusion of enforceable responsibilities for multinationals are not on the table.
Coherent and persuasive
Investment should not be in the WTO. International rules on investment are needed, but not these ones and not in this forum. The strong stand by many developing countries against EU pressure is supported by the 1,450 civil society organisations from 90 countries that signed a joint statement against the new issues.
Developing countries have made coherent and persuasive proposals on implementation. It is an insult that their agenda for repair of unfair rules is being blocked by the industrialised countries. There will come a point today when developing-country governments must make up their minds over whether they will accept the deal on the table. A sensible decision may be to take more time in order to get a fairer deal and a less pressured process. Their citizens, particularly those who are poor and vulnerable, deserve nothing less.
Barry Coates is the Director of the World Development Movement.
WDM is an independent campaigning organisation which aims to change policies of governments, international agencies and companies in the North to stop exploitation of people in the Third World.
Women's Caucus Declaration, Third Ministerial Meeting of the World Trade Organisation, Seattle
The Women's Caucus, comprising women's organisations from the South and North attending the Seattle Conference, issued the following declaration:
WE are concerned that the rule-based system created by the WTO has produced increasing levels of inequality in both the North and South. This system privileges corporate interests over community and national interests. Trade liberalisation is not gender-neutral and has a different impact on women and men, similar to the different impact it has on developed and developing countries. While some women may gain from opening up of trade, the majority of the world's women and girls are adversely affected by the unequal power relations created at the national, regional and international levels by the new trade regime. We firmly believe that the trade policies should ensure gender equality and equity and people-centred sustainable development.
We believe that the WTO undermines major international agreements that women have worked hard to get their governments to commit to, including the UN Conference on Environment and Development, the World Conference on Human Rights, the World Summit for Social Development, the Fourth World Conference on Women and Habitat II. We further believe that all WTO agreements and policies should be bound by international human rights standards including the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women.
The Women's Caucus urges the Members of the WTO to consider the following concerns clustered around the following critical areas of discussion at the Seattle meeting:
and Implementation Issues
Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS)
Indigenous Peoples' Seattle Declaration on the occasion of the WTO Third Ministerial Meeting
WE, the Indigenous Peoples from various regions of the world, have come to Seattle to express our great concern over how the World Trade Organisation is destroying Mother Earth and the cultural and biological diversity of which we are a part.
Trade liberalisation and export-oriented development, which are the overriding principles and policies pushed by the WTO, are creating the most adverse impacts on the lives of Indigenous Peoples. Our inherent right to self-determination, our sovereignty as nations, and treaties and other constructive agreements which Indigenous nations and Peoples have negotiated with other nation-states, are undermined by most of the WTO Agreements. The disproportionate impact of these Agreements on our communities, whether through environmental degradation or the militarisation and violence that often accompanies development projects, is serious and therefore should be addressed immediately.
In light of the adverse impacts and consequences of the WTO Agreements,we Indigenous Peoples, present the following demands:
A review of the Agreements should be done to address all of the inequities and imbalances which adversely affect Indigenous Peoples. The proposals to address some of these are as follows:
the Agreement on Agriculture
regard to the liberalisation of services and investments we recommend
the TRIPS Agreement, the proposals are as follows:
We call on the member-states of the WTO not to allow for another round whilst the review and rectification of the implementation of existing agreements has not been done. We reject the proposals for an investment treaty, competition, accelerated industrial tariffs, government procurement, and the creation of a working group on biotechnology.
We believe that the whole philosophy underpinning the WTO Agreements and the principles and policies it promotes contradict our core values, spirituality and worldviews, as well as our concepts and practices of development, trade and environmental protection. Therefore, we challenge the WTO to redefine its principles and practices toward a 'sustainable communities' paradigm, and to recognise and allow for the continuation of other worldviews and models of development.
Indigenous peoples, undoubtedly, are the ones most adversely affected by globalisation and by the WTO Agreements. However, we believe that it is also us who can offer viable alternatives to the dominant economic growth, export-oriented development model. Our sustainable lifestyles and cultures, traditional knowledge, cosmologies, spirituality, values of collectivity, reciprocity, respect and reverence for Mother Earth, are crucial in the search for a transformed society where justice, equity, and sustainability will prevail.
The above is an edited version of the full Declaration, which has been signed by indigenous groups all over the world. For more information, please contact Victoria Tauli-Corpuz of Tebtebba Foundation, Inc. (Indigenous Peoples' International Center for Policy Research and Education). Email: firstname.lastname@example.org